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Proving your English ability for the British citizenship test

So you’ve decided to stay in the UK. Welcome! In a future blog I’ll discuss the citizenship test in more detail, but first you’ll be expected to prove that you are at least B1 level in English. I’ll be referring at first to the government website, which is a little confusing and needs some decoding, and after that I’ll look at the tests available at the four approved test providers. You may well be at level B1 already, but unfortunately you need to prove this through one of those test providers.


One thing you’ll need to remember is that there are two different types of SELT (secure English language test) and this depends on what work you do or are planning to do in the UK. The following occupations require you to pass tests in Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening. I’ll refer to this later as ROUTE A.

  • Health and Care Worker

  • High Potential Individual*

  • Innovator Founder**

  • Minister of Religion

  • Scale-up Worker

  • Skilled Worker

  • Start-up***

  • Student

*High Potential Individual: this is a person who has a degree from an eligible university within the last 5 years.

**Innovator founder: if you are starting business that is different from anything else currently available.

***Scale-up Worker: this is a person who works, or will work, for a company which is experiencing rapid growth.

If one of the following routes is relevant, you’ll need to sit speaking and listening tests. I’ll refer to this later as ROUTE B.

  • Citizenship

  • International Sportperson

  • Parent

  • Partner

  • Representative of an Overseas Business

  • Settlement ( also known as indefinite leave to remain)


Here are the four approved test providers:

4. IELTS SELT Consortium NB a Google search doesn’t find a website for this, but this link should be helpful:

Make sure you use an approved test centre to do your test, otherwise you risk your application being rejected, and you will have to pay again at an accredited centre. This process is expensive enough, there’s no need to make it more so!

Below are the course options as listed on

  • IELTS SELT Consortium: ‘IELTS for UKVI’ or ‘IELTS Life Skills’*

  • LanguageCert: ‘LanguageCert International ESOL SELT’ or ‘LanguageCert Academic SELT’ or ‘LanguageCert General SELT

  • Pearson: ‘PTE Academic UKVI’ or ‘PTE Home’

  • PSI Services: ‘Skills for English UKVI

  • Trinity College London: ‘Secure English Language Tests for UKVI’ – Integrated Skills in English (ISE) or Graded Examinations in Spoken English (GESE) *UKVI: UK Visa and Immigration.

I’ll now go through the various options on each of those sites and make some recommendations.

1. IELTS SELT Consortium

IELTS for UKVI: this is intended for academics, either with a degree or planning to study for one. This route would be particularly suitable for a High Potential Individual or Student.

IELTS Life Skills: This test covers Speaking and Listening, and is suitable for those married to a British citizen, those applying for indefinite leave to remain, and those wishing to become a British Citizen.

2. LanguageCert

The courses listed on the website are slightly different to those on the government website. I’ll highlight the ones needed for a visa.

LanguageCert Academic SELT: like the IELTS test, this is intended for overseas students wishing to study in the UK. It is suitable for a Student visa and therefore can be used as proof for a citizenship application. CEFR level B1 to C2.

LanguageCert General SELT: this covers Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening and is approved by the UK Government for work visas. CEFR level A2 to C1.

3. Pearson

PTE Academic UKVI: this is a four-skill test (Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening) and is intended both for students and those intending to work in some of the ROUTE A occupations (Skilled Worker, Start-up, Innovator and Minister of religion.

PTE Home B1: this test is only on Speaking and Listening, and intended for those applying for indefinite leave to remain or for citizenship (I assume on ROUTE B). The test itself is only 22 minutes long and results can be received in as little as 2 days.

4. PSI Services

This company wasn’t listed higher up on the government website but the test they do is approved by the UK Home Office.

Skill for English SELT: there isn’t a lot of information about this, but there are apparently 130 different countries outside the UK. This would be a good option if you are still in your home country. The learning materials are created to your CEFR level but I would assume you need to be level B1 upwards for this to accepted by the Home Office.

5. Trinity College London

Integrated Skills in English (ISE): there are a number of courses within the ISE route, the grading depends on what job you do or at what level you plan to study at. I would assume that you need to be level B2 for the Home Office to accept your proof but check this before you book a place.

Graded Examinations in Spoken English (GESE): this is an alternative route to ISE. I’m looking at Grade 5, which is appropriate for citizenship. Speaking and Listening skills are tested by a video call where you are expected to have a 10-minute conversation with a teacher.

Wow. My head is spinning, so I’ll stop there for now. It does seem like there are plenty of options for those of you who wish to apply for citizenship and need to prove your lever. I hope this has helped!

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